How to Curb Your Spending

by heather

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: you’ve had a terrible day, and now your credit card is softly calling your name. You know you’d feel better if you ran over to Marshall’s to just look. You won’t buy, you promise yourself, but it never hurts to walk around the store.

Well, an hour later you’re done walking, but you leave with an armful of goodies and $150 less than you had when you walked in. Oops. The old window-shopping demon has struck again.

Resolving to save money and be frugal is hard enough, but when we deliberately throw temptation into our path it becomes even harder to resist spending. But, most of us can’t resist pulling out our credit cards.

Our Addiction To Spending

CNN reports that between 1989 and 2006, the average American’s credit card debt went up by 316%. And, more and more people are becoming delinquent on their payments because of their growing debt.

Not only does excessive spending wreak havoc on our bank accounts, but it’s also an enormous waste of resources. Everything we buy uses resources and creates waste in some way, either in the products used to create the “thing”, the plastic used to wrap it, or the gas used to haul it across the country.

This hyper-consumption lifestyle is devastating our planet.

Most people’s homes are literally overflowing with “stuff”, and really, all that “stuff” doesn’t make us happy! It complicates and clutters our lives, and most of us would breathe easier by having, and consuming, less.

So, how can we resist the enormous, tempting call of our credit cards?

Step One: Set Goals

Sit down, either alone or with your family, and really lay out why you need to curb your spending. Are you sinking in debt? Are you saving for something big like a house or a vacation? Are you trying to start an emergency fund?

Identify the reasons, and write them down.

Next, post your goals where you can see them every single day. This will keep them real for you.

It’s incredibly helpful to use pictures instead of words if you can. One picture, as the old saying goes, is worth a thousand words. So, for example, if you want to curb your spending so your family can buy a house, then find a picture of the house you’re dreaming of. Find pictures of flowers you’ll plant in the yard, paint swatches that you’ll use in the kitchen, or your perfect master bedroom. Visualize what your life will be like in this house, and make a collage.

Many people call this a “Vision Board”, and with good reason. This is your vision of the future, and it’s why you’re trying to control your spending. If you create a vision (and put it in a place where you’ll see it every day), it will be that much easier to remember why you’re doing all this.

Step Two: Create A Budget

Do you know how much your family needs to get by each month? Do you know how much you spend in each area, like groceries, gas, or clothing?

It’s vital if you want to cut down on spending that you know how much you do need to spend to live. Knowledge is power, remember?

Sit down and create a budget for your family. I know, I can hear you groaning from here. No, budgeting isn’t fun and yes, there are plenty of things you’d rather be doing. But remember your dream house? Or, can you imagine what it will feel like when all your credit cards are paid off, or how safe you feel when you finally have an emergency fund?

Yes, those are good feelings. It’s why you’re doing this! So, keep the good feelings in your mind. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, so now’s the time to buckle down.

Look and what you have coming in, and look at what you have going out every month. Look at ways you can trim your expenses, and come up with a budget for your household.

There are tons of free budget software programs on the Internet.

Here are a few you can consider:

It’s important to remember that when you draft your budget, leave some fun money in there if you can. Everyone needs to go out to eat occasionally or go see a movie. If you take out all the extras, especially at the onset, it will be harder for you to cope with the lifestyle change. So, give yourself a little bit of slack.

Step Three: Freeze Your Credit Cards

This is a great trick for cutting down on spending. Take your credit cards (ALL of them!) and put them in a tiny tupperware container. Fill the container with water, and put it in the freezer. That way if you want to buy something with one of your credit cards, you’ll have to wait until the ice unthaws. And, you can’t cheat and put them in the microwave (unless you want to buy a new microwave…)

If you have limited space in your freezer, then put them in a safe. The point here is not to carry your credit cards with you. They’re far too easy to whip out and swipe, and that’s how you get into trouble.

If you think that even this will be too tempting, then it might be time to cut up your credit cards.

But wait! you’re wailing. What if there is an emergency?

This will be good incentive to start an emergency fund if you don’t have one! You have to seriously commit to curbing spending, and if your credit cards are too much of a temptation then they need to go.

Step Four: Avoid Temptation

You know where your weak points are when it comes to shopping. It might be aimlessly wandering around Marshall’s (my Achilles’ Heel). It might be your local bookstore, the mall, or surfing Amazon. Whatever it is, don’t go there. Telling yourself you’re just going to look never works, does it? It doesn’t, because you always buy.

Don’t torture yourself.

Find other things to do instead.

Step Five: Don’t Squander Unexpected Money

If you get unexpected money such an inheritance, lottery winning, or a raise, don’t spend it. Stash that money into your “dream fund”.

Step Six: Talk

We all need people to lean on. If you’re having trouble saving money and curbing spending, then reach out to your friends and family. They might know plenty of tips to help you on your path.

You can also draw upon resources like Debtors Anonymous, or join frugal living communities like Wesabe, Simple Living, or Frugal Village.

Talking to others who are also trying to curb their spending can make you realize that you’re not alone. Tons of people all over the world are trying to save money and reduce their consumption these days, and together we can all share tips and tricks that will help us pull through another day.

You can do this.


Derek Greer October 8, 2008 at 6:28 pm

I also might add Shoeboxed to that list. They help you organize your paper reciepts (you send them in to be scanned and digitized) and budget. Then you can recycle the paper so it’s a win-win.

Kristine January 17, 2012 at 5:56 am

Thanks for sharing this useful tips on how to keep expenses under control, although sometimes it’s really hard to avoid temptation and refrain from buying a new dress or a pair of shoes 🙂 I also use an online personal finance software for expense tracking and family budget planning. It’s much easier to make informed money management decisions and plan ahead for the future when you have a clear understanding of where you stand financially.

Quicken troubleshooting November 18, 2016 at 10:32 am

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